Amy Flowerree

Research Fellow


Flowerree, Amy

Project: Interpretive Charity Under Oppression

Here is a platitude: we ought to interpret each other charitably. Commonsense morality often tells us to “think the best of others.” That is, when we have before us a range of interpretations of a person’s actions or attitudes, we ought to select the interpretation that shows the person as a rational person of goodwill.

The central question of my project is should oppressed persons interpret those in positions of power charitably? I argue not. In fact, I argue for something stronger: interpretive charity under oppression is a tool of oppression. The oppressive context illuminates something important about our interpretive task. A principle of charity is myopic. It focuses solely on the party being interpreted rather than the normative context. We should not, I argue, limit the principle of charity to non-oppressive contexts. Instead, we should reject the principle of charity entirely and instead endorse a principle of justice.

A principle of justice holds that we ought to interpret an act/action in such a way as to correctly understand its normative features. Following a principle of justice requires two distinct tasks. First, drawing from the work of Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch, I argue we must cultivate the intellectual virtue of attention. Attention involves pulling back from deference to social scripts and ego-driven distortions and instead focusing on the morally relevant features of the entire situation. Second, we must also refine our moral concepts to better track the morally relevant features of the situation.

Bio: Amy Flowerree is Assistant Professor of philosophy at Texas Tech University. Previously, she has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Kant and Contemporary Philosophy (CONCEPT) at the University of Cologne. Her research focuses on epistemology and ethics, and their intersection.